Monday, May 4, 2020


By Vicki Bechard, Secretary LFKS

The lockdown officially ended today here in Kansas as we begin Teacher Appreciation Week.  Educators smile at the irony in this and look to the silver lining that at least we are less restricted.  Soft openings are happening this week; more will be phased in over the next month.  School buildings are still closed.  Most of us are doing our part to maintain safety and sanity.  Through it all, the mail has been delivered and teachers are still teaching their kids just like always.  It’s been a challenging 4th quarter to say the least.   What can we take away from this time of challenge and change?  As we fully and officially appreciate the dedication and hard work of our teachers year round and especially at this time, let’s consider how we can be #BetterTogether.

We could dwell on all that we have missed, but I’d rather not.  Our seniors will have stories to tell at their reunions in the years to come of how COVID 19 cut short their senior year, and they won’t have the traditional graduation ceremony, at least for now.  Maybe that’s not as bad as we think.  These later-in-the-summer celebrations could be viewed as anticlimactic, but I’m hoping they might be better than ever because people will be so glad to get together.  We feel bad for the teachers that are retiring and now won’t be able to hug their students or their colleagues one last time.  Maybe those of us who aren’t retiring could suggest to those students and colleagues that they write a letter of congratulations and appreciation to that retiring teacher so it will serve as a lifetime hug if you will, that can be revisited over and over.  Appreciation and celebrations are always #BetterTogether.

#BetterTogether, or some version of this sentiment, has been included in so many commercials and articles, discussed on news shows, and seen trending online since the pandemic overtook our country.  While we were stuck at home the companies came to us.  Celebrities and sports teams joined the call to connect with all who were struggling to stay positive and stay healthy. They provided information on how to stay safe, encouraged us and reminded us over and over that we are in this together and we will get through this.  In this time of challenge, anxiety, and even fear, we look for ways to survive both physically and emotionally. When faced with personal challenge, those who reach out to others, to help and protect, often find the most peace and satisfaction.  We can’t thank enough our frontline healthcare professionals, first responders, custodial and cleaning staff, mail and delivery people, all those grocery store employees who keep those shelves stocked, and so many other “essential” jobs that we never knew were essential.  And of course we can’t thank our educators enough who are teaching online after a quick crash course, reaching out to students and families, all the while going through the same things at home like the rest of us are doing.  Our group hug for these champions must be done from a distance in our hearts for now, but it is important to thank those whose sacrifices have embodied #BetterTogether.

Learning Forward Kansas has been using the hashtag #BetterTogether for quite a while.   The fourth video in our professional learning series Inspired to Learn:  Kansas Stories focused on all the ways we are better together as educators.  During this two month homeschool-online-learning event, we find many ways where educators are collaborating to create meaningful learning, principals are checking in on staff to ensure they are doing OK, and many are finding ways to spread joy and encouragement.  We can be inspired by the intentional connections that schools and educators are making with families through food distributions, phone calls, zoom check-ins, social media posts, and packets for those who lack the necessary technology.  We can appreciate and enjoy the many videos that have emerged to make us smile as they provide that emotional connection we crave.  As an example, LFKS Board member and principal, Amy Beck’s staff at Nemaha Central Elementary and Middle School made weekly videos to share with the school community that conveyed joy and encouragement.  Click here if you want to check out what it looks like to be #BetterTogether.

As the school year comes to an official close, we wonder what the future will bring.  What can we learn from this time of sudden, mandated change?  How will these lessons of both success and challenge shape our decisions for teaching and learning when school resumes in the fall?  Will we be better prepared?  Are we asking the right questions?  To whom are we asking the questions? Are we including all stakeholders in this journey into the unknown?  LFKS is in the process of developing some tools to help with this collection of important data that will inform our decisions, frame instruction and learning, and ultimately lead to contingency plans when the virus returns (and it will return).  Through it all we can and will emerge stronger if we stay together, work together, and learn together and the result will be that we are indeed #BetterTogether.